Sydney Philharmonia Choirs plan to pop the bubbly while Cheryl Barker and Stuart Skelton cut the cake(s).

There’s a big birthday party brewing at Bennelong Point. 2013 marks the bicentenaries of both Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner and the hundredth birthday of Benjamin Britten, and the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs are celebrating in style, with a grand opera gala. Under the banner “Opera’s Triple Threat”, the Philharmonia has assembled an exceptionally meaty program of music from all three composers, and they’ve drafted in an impressive pair of soloists: soprano Cheryl Barker and heldentenor Stuart Skelton, two of Australia’s most acclaimed international opera singers. Conducted by Artistic Director Brett Weymark, the concerts will include arias, duets and, of course, choruses from Verdi’s Otello,Wagner’s Lohengrin, Tannhäuserand Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg,and Britten’s Peter Grimes.

Sydney opera fans who remember Opera Australia’s rapturously received Peter Grimesin 2009 will be keen to hear Skelton in the title role again. The Sydney-born tenor is excited too. “Grimes has pretty much become a signature role for me,” he says, “so it’s really fantastic to bring it back to my home town. The response from Sydney audiences last time was incredible.” He’s also sung...